The Fugitives (19)
September 28, 2014
HiLoBooks is pleased to serialize Morley Roberts’s 1900 novel The Fugitives, an adventure set against the backdrop of the Second Boer War (1899–1902). The author was once known for his novel The Private Life of Henry Maitland (1912), but he quickly passed into obscurity. How obscure? In a 1966 story about plagiarism (“The Longest Science-Fiction Story Ever Told”), Arthur C. Clarke attributed an 1898 sci-fi story of Roberts’s (“The Anticipator”) about the same topic to H.G. Wells; in a 1967 guest editorial in If (“Herbert George Morley Roberts Wells, Esq.”), a contrite Clarke noted that not a single Morley fan had emerged to point out this error. HiLoBooks — in conjunction with the Save the Adventure book club, which under the editorship of HILOBROW’s Joshua Glenn is issuing The Fugitives as an e-book — is rectifying this situation. Enjoy!
All that day it appeared to these two men that their long and almost impossible journey from Pretoria, with its succession of night marches and its intolerable days of hiding, had been but a time of incubation for a storm, a prelude to something which was dramatic and most essentially tragic. So one is swept upon a smooth river toward a cataract whose far-off-sounding thunder has been blurred by the near hum of insects or merged in the beat of anxious hearts.
Blake, after his sudden insanity, which indeed was not so sudden, considering his martyrdom within walls at Pretoria, was in the weakest state of physical reaction. He did not realize that he had been mad; to him it seemed that he had only done something reckless and admittedly foolish on the sudden prick of necessity. Hardy soothed him by saying that after all he had done well. Certainly the capture of the buggy and the mules had furnished them, not only with means of locomotion, but with food as well. But, curiously enough, they both seemed more tired than they had been. Reaction claimed them both when they could sit down and yet progress toward their unknown hazardous destination.
So, in idleness which was not idle, and in the Sabbath solitude and silence of the veldt (for in the hot, quiet aspect of this world there was something delightfully suggestive of an Old-World Sunday), they pondered over the meaning of that dust-cloud and did not solve its problem. The hours of the sun declined, and no longer could they hear the low, far thunder of any guns.
“Perhaps we imagined them.”
But they did not imagine them, and when the night fell and they inspanned their weary team, they marched straight down upon a solution of their wonder. Their way now led them through a succession of kopjes, and over dongas that at times made them despair of crossing. More than once they were almost overset. At last when the hour was nearly midnight, Blake, still the keenest to hear, begged Hardy to pull up.
“How far are we now from the Bloemfontein road?” he asked.
“Perhaps three miles,” replied Hardy, “perhaps more.”
“We can’t drive further,” said Blake. “Listen, do you hear?”
Hardy heard his own breathing and that of the mules. If he heard aught else it seemed like the breathing of the great world of plain itself.
“Listen!” said Blake.
“I hear nothing.”
“I hear — nothing! Yes, I hear — I don’t know what.”
Blake laid his hand on Hardy’s arm.
“I have the solution.”
“Of what, Blake?”
“Of that dust-cloud.”
“Tell me, then.”
Blake laughed with a nervous joyful laugh.
“Cronje’s in flight, I’ll swear. I tell you I hear many things, oh, more than I can tell you.”
He spoke with exaltation, and though Hardy suspected his imagination he succumbed to the spell.
“Drive on; drive on a bit,” said Blake.
In half an hour his exaltation fell from him.
“I heard nothing after all.”
And yet he had heard something. But sound is capricious on plain and hill, and maybe at that moment some great kopje of the veldt intercepted the vast groaning chorus of an army in hurried flight.
“But we must not come down on the road,” said Blake. “If you are right, or even if you are not, there will be patrols along it.”
Then Blake bade him listen again.
“Horses at a gallop,” he said. “Oh, that we were over the road on the river. Come, Hardy, we must foot it again. At any rate we must leave the cart and the mules and get to the road.”
They outspanned in the shelter of a kopje and knee-haltered the leading mules, and, with their newly acquired rifles, crept down the last mile to the road. It was long past midnight, but near the road they halted, for they not only heard but saw a strong patrol of Boers marching east.
“Ah, if they were only our own men! I tell you the hornets are out,” said Blake. “But we can’t move.”
Suddenly sleep fell upon him with the swift, resistless motion of a tide. He endeavored to keep awake, but could not.
“Sleep, then, I’ll watch,” said Hardy; “though there is no need.”
And as there was no need, or none apparent, he, too, succumbed to the wizard that takes the cares of men from them, and in half an hour he was at peace. And in their sleep, which was for a while untroubled, there grew up trouble, and they heard strange noises without wonder or alarm, and the director of dreams — the irresponsible dream-demon who is the last refuge of irresponsibility in man — made a magic tissue out of the sounds for both. Hardy dreamed of a review in Pretoria in which he saw the great army of the Empire march by in thunder, English, Scotch, Irish, and Colonial. Blake saw his own regiment go by, not only the living men he knew, but all the dead men in Natal who had arisen to join it. And not only those dead men were there with their comrades, but others from the red-hot Soudan, and from the far-off fields of bloody Waterloo, and from Fuentes d’Onor and Salamanca and the red-weeping walls of San Sebastian. His own company was a great company indeed, for it was the mighty aggregate of all the traditional heroes of the past, who make a regiment as living and enduring an organism as the race itself; who give it courage, self-reliance, a history, and a character.
But in the changing drama of the dreams came subtle changes, and they heard Flight, and knew that the world of the night was awake. And sleep departed from them and drew back its flood, as the sea retires into the great deep and leaves the ribs of earth bare. Blake rose out of sleep and heard all there was to hear, and then laid his hand on Hardy’s forehead, thus waking him without noise.
Yet what mattered noise now! Had they shouted, none might have heard them, or, if they had been heard, each man in flight would have said that some far comrade called and would have marched on and on in unresponsive silence.
For right in front of them upon the road was a flying army and all its baggage. Oxen groaned as the whip fell and flayed them. Wagons creaked in dolorous, ceaseless complaint; hot axles groaned for oil; and the mutter of five thousand men ascended into the air just as smoke ascends upon a windless day. They saw men on horseback, with their hats slouched over their tired eyes; other men walked, and both went by in ceaseless streams. One wagon was succeeded by another, and then again another, until an axle broke and there was a block. Then the column stayed, as orders ran from the vanguard to the rear, and the broken wagon was hurled on one side, a wreck, to whiten as a skeleton whitens on the burning veldt. The hoarse voices of men rose and fell like the sound of breakers, and only sometimes was the voice of one whose courage failed not.
Blake and Hardy were within fifty yards of the column in hard flight.
“I told you,” said Blake, “I told you! This is Cronje’s column. They’ve been turned out. I see it now. That dust was our cavalry.”
“Hush,” said Hardy. “Look, any moment another block may send men this way. What shall we do?”
Blake was in a state of excitement that gave him no time to think.
“Let’s lie and look on!”
“But if we are seen?”
Hardy whipped a white handkerchief, or what had been a white handkerchief, out of his pocket.
“Look,” he said, “I can talk German and that’s all right. But English is suspect with them. I’m going to tie up your jaw. Remember, you can’t speak!”
Before Blake could remonstrate he was bandaged and half gagged. He sputtered remonstrances in vain. But Hardy had been none too soon. Another breakdown happened, and, as it lasted longer, the column of horsemen and footmen split, and cut off a corner by coming right past the two fugitives. With their ragged clothes, their South African hats, and their rifles and bandoliers, there was nothing to distinguish them from the great ruck of flying men. Twenty or thirty passed them without a word, but then a man on foot sat on the very edge of the rock by which they lay. He spoke in Dutch, and Hardy replied in German.
“Ach, I can speak some German,” said the Boer. “It is bad being without horses!”
“It’s very bad,” said Hardy. “I wonder if we shall escape.”
The Boer was obviously gloomy about the prospects.
“If I had a horse I would do as so many have done. I would go off to Boshof. Is your friend hurt?”
Hardy explained that Blake’s horse had lasted until a little while ago and had then fallen and died, and that the man’s jaw was badly hurt.
“Put him on a wagon,” said the Boer. “But we shall all be in Cape Town soon. I do not think the General will get out of this.”
He drifted on and was lost in the crowd. Twice more in that hour the same conversation was repeated in almost the same words, until Hardy began to feel that he was really a Boer and still in a dream. The rôle was not hard to play. No one suspected anything. The retreating army was thinking wholly of itself and was taking short views indeed. To be able to talk the friendly and allied German was a guarantee of good faith.
“Let’s march with them,” muttered the gagged Blake after their last new acquaintance had gone on. “I tell you our chaps must be hot-foot after them. There will be fighting in the morning, and then we shall know just what to do.”
“But won’t our men come by this road?” asked Hardy.
Blake shook his head.
“No, they’ll cut them off. They must be marching now from the southwest upon this road lower down. It’s all in our way.”
An additional incentive to this hazardous course was afforded them by another two men on foot, who spoke to them, and evidently expected them to come on. They walked with them for half a mile and then dropped behind and escaped them. They dropped into the rear of the column and marched with their heads down, just as their new companions and enemies marched. There was something hideous and yet appallingly attractive in the aspect of things. At one time they were by an ox-wagon and then close to an ambulance. Again they mingled with silent men on foot. Once a big bearded man passed them on horseback, and they wondered if this were indeed the fighting Boer General, who looked as if he were to be a General no more.
Then they were at the very tail of the column. Just as day broke they slipped off the road and sat behind a rock.
“I’ll remember this to my dying day,” said Hardy. “It has been a horrible night.”
“It was a bit queer,” he said. “May I take my bandage off now?”
He was very amenable to suggestion and had ceased to be difficult.
“I don’t see why not,” said Hardy.
And then the east opened up and it was day, a cool and pleasant morning. Afar off they heard the dwindling sound of the anguished army of the night. The road was desolate, not a soul was to be seen. Yet the dust rose far away, and on the road were dying and dead horses, and oxen loosed from the yoke, who stood with their heads down, as though considering whether any effort to live was now endurable.
Although the army of Magersfontein moved slowly, the day moved apace; event grew out of event, and presently, far away to the southwest, they heard a noise like the snapping of dry sticks.
“Our fellows have got ’em,” said Blake. “Come, let’s travel.”
So they travelled toward Life and Death, and Blake was extraordinarily cheerful and blithe. He talked of Clare very happily, and said the war would soon be over, and that, now she knew he was out of prison and as safe as a soldier could be, she would be content to wait till his home-coming.
“We shan’t be rich,” said Blake, “but I know my little girl doesn’t want much.”
And Hardy wondered if all this were true as they waded across the Modder at a narrow ford or drift. And even as he wondered he saw dust far off to the south of them, and they went toward it, aiming to cut it off. An hour’s fast walking brought them to a kopje which stood high, and when they climbed it to reconnoitre they saw that Cronje was then on the south of the river, making for Bloemfontein.
“By God!” said Blake, “they should occupy this very kopje.”
As he spoke Hardy saw some hundreds of the Boers separate from the main body and come toward the hill on which they stood.
“We’re in for it,” said he.
“In for what?” asked Blake.
“In for the Boer army,” said Hardy. “We can’t get away now, and we shall have to fight our own men.”
“I’ll see them damned first,” said Blake.
“Don’t be a fool,” cried his companion; “you need hit no one.”
Blake turned a laughing eye on Hardy. It was the first time he had laughed naturally for a long time.
“Why, what a man you are,” he said.
And so it fell out that Hardy and Blake found themselves Boers without being able to help it, and in the excitement no one knew who they were or asked any questions. The Field Cornet in command saw how his men placed themselves, and only told them not to fire or show themselves until it was necessary.
“The damned rooineks will tumble into the trap as usual,” he said savagely.
Now out of the southwest came British troops; first, horsemen clad in khaki, and with them Horse Artillery in such condition as to cleanness as would give Aldershot fits. And away behind they saw infantry in close order.
“By the Lord, can’t I loose off my rifle?” asked Blake.
“No, no,” said Hardy.
The British scouts came close to the foot of the kopje.
“They won’t fire on them,” said Hardy. And he was right. There was no need to kill one to warn a thousand. But two or three of the scouts left their horses and started climbing. They looked on it as a joke, and turned the climb into a race. The first man who reached the summit turned to chaff his companions. As he turned, a Boer behind a rock caught him by the leg and dragged him down with a thump that knocked the wind and senses clean out of him.
That very moment the man next to him showed that he suspected something. He called to his companion below:
“Look out, I believe there are Boers here!”
There was the crack of a rifle close by Hardy, and the Englishman spun about, lifted his arms, and pitched headlong. The other man dropped into the cover of the rocks and fired his rifle as a warning. Hardy saw the man with the four horses climb into the saddle and gallop across the veldt back to his supports. As he went, the rifles in the hill spoke, and his horse fell headlong. The rider disengaged himself and ran. And as he ran little spurts of dust rose round him like rain falling upon fine dry sand. And then the Horse Artillery unlimbered.
“Lie low,” said Hardy.
The next moment a shell screamed overhead and burst, scattering its shrapnel far down the reverse slope of the hill. The next burst at the foot of the hill.
“Now they’ve the range,” said Blake. Sure enough they had, for the shrapnel searched the whole crest where they lay, and not a rifle dared answer. Then Hardy saw how little use shrapnel was when there was good cover. Some of the Boers lying behind good rocks pulled out their pipes and smoked. He saw many reach out their hands and pick the bullets up as they rebounded from the rocks behind them. But all the same the sound of the shells was terrifying, and it made Hardy far from comfortable.
“It’s my first time,” he said to Blake.
“It won’t be long,” said Blake. “They’ll turn this lot out in a minute. For we are in force.”
The Field Cornet watched the British from his own rock and was indeed the only man among all his companions who took any risks.
“I bet our cavalry are working around this lot’s left flank,” said Blake. “You’ll see we’ll be on the run in five minutes.”
His prediction was verified in less than that, for he heard the leader’s voice. At the order given, the Boers dropped from rock to rock, and so far not one was touched, though the shrapnel still fell among them.
“Shall we move?”
“No,” said Hardy. “Lie quiet. They’ll not miss us.”
But the Field Cornet himself came past them crouching and ordered them to go. For one moment Hardy wondered whether he should obey. His mind, or part of it, wanted to shoot the man; but with the rest of him he gave him his due meed of admiration. He got up and ran with Blake. The next moment he was deafened and blinded and pitched heels over head. Was it the end of all things? What had struck him? When he came to he knew, for he and the big Field Cornet were lying together, and Blake was a little way off. The Boer and Blake were both wounded, Blake to all appearance very seriously in the head, but the Boer to the death. A bit of the shell had buried itself in his side. Hardy had escaped untouched.
He ran to Blake and found him insensible, with the blood streaming from a great scalp wound. He felt the wound and fancied the skull was intact. Making a triangular bandage out of his handkerchief, and a thick pad out of Blake’s, he put the bandage on, and then ran to the Boer. He was past all help, but Hardy knelt down by him and took his hand. He spoke to the man in German, but the Boer shook his head.
“Do you speak English?” asked Hardy.
“Of course, yes,” said the Boer. “I don’t seem to know you?”
“I am an Englishman and only got here by accident,” said Hardy. “Is there anything I can do for you?”
The man was past curiosity and his reply was simple:
“My name is Wilhelm Meintjes. Send word to my wife at Heilbroun.”
With that his eyes closed, and he died without a pang.
“After all, it is good to die so,” said Hardy. “But what of Blake?”
He ran back to his friend and then looked from the kopje and saw his late companions, the enemy, streaming across the veldt. The British cavalry had failed to cut them off, and were now sullenly retiring on their supports as a Boer twelve-pounder got to work on them. An artillery duel ended the little fight, and then the Boers limbered up and galloped off. Hardy rose and stood on the verge of the kopje and waved his hat. He had nothing now that would serve as a white flag but his shirt, and that would not have been white. But his signal was answered, and a dozen men climbed up to him.
“Do you surrender?” asked a tall, fine, cleanlimbed man with a face the color of old khaki.
For the life of him Hardy could not help laughing.
“All right, I surrender. But I’m an Englishman.”
The man from New South Wales — for he was a Colonial — took his rifle.
“Then you are a damned renegade and ought to be shot.”
By this time the rest of the men were up with them. Hardy proceeded to explain the situation and finally induced them to believe him.
“Where’s the ambulance?” he asked.
Two of the Colonials carried Blake to the foot of the hill, while the rest buried the Boer hastily.
“Will Cronje get away?” asked Hardy anxiously, as he climbed down.
“Not much, we’ve got him,” said his captor.
At the bottom of the kopje Hardy was introduced to the suspicious notice of a young lieutenant, who asked him some questions and was much inclined to disbelieve all his answers.
“But what about my friend?” said Hardy. “I tell you he is Blake of the Rutland Fusiliers. I helped him to escape from Pretoria.”
The officer pointed to the ambulance advancing, and, getting on his horse, left Hardy in charge of two of the troopers, both of them slightly wounded.
“Did I hear you say you had escaped from Pretoria?” asked one of them. “What regiment do you belong to?”
Hardy explained that he belonged to no regiment, but that the man then lying insensible before them was a captain in the Rutlandshires.
“Poor devil,” said the trooper. “But you both look hard coves, — my oath, you do!”
And then the ambulance came up, and Hardy explained his case again to a captain of the R.A.M.C., who looked at Blake’s head and shook his own. The action made Hardy quail. The surgeon lifted Blake’s eyelid and looked at the pupil of his eye; then he made an ugly mouth and bound the wound up again, after clipping off a lot of Blake’s thick, curly hair.
“Will he live?”
“Perhaps,” said the doctor, as he turned to the other men.
“We heard of this Blake’s escape,” said he, “but we thought he had been recaptured.”
“So we ought to have been,” replied Hardy. “We’ve had a rough time.”
Again he walked in a dream, and the world was a very fantastic place indeed. After all, perhaps Blake was to die, and to die at the hands of his own countrymen. This would be bitter news to those waiting in England, — bitter news indeed.
That night Hardy found himself in Kimberley, and Blake lay insensible in the hospital. The doctor there would not prophesy concerning him.
“I’ll tell you in a week,” said the one who was most communicative, and then Hardy found himself turned over to an ardent and inquisitive questioner in the shape of a major who was running a branch of the Intelligence Department.
“I’m sure you must know a thousand times more than I do,” said Hardy, when the examination was over.
“I daresay,” replied the major, “but I know a little more than I did. Would you like a whiskey and soda, Mr. Hardy?”
And without the slightest hesitation Hardy said that he would like a case of whiskey and a hogshead of soda, which, indeed, he almost got when three correspondents seized hold of him and made him tell his story in detail. But before he would open his mouth, even to drink, he demanded that someone who knew the ropes should at once put him in the way of cabling to England. What he went through in order to get permission cannot be told in any reasonable space, but when the irritable gentleman in charge had come to an end of all the messages marked “X.B.” and “O.H.M.S.” with priority, and had invented a few prefixed “X.G.,” and had raked up a few more that were headed “X.M.,” he condescended to allow a private or “X.” message to go through. And this is what Hardy sent:
“Blake with me here, but dangerously ill. Come immediately.”
And after he had sent it another “X.M.” message from the Commander-in-Chief went through, and it gave among the list of “dangerously wounded” the name of Captain Edward Blake.
* “The damned rooineks will tumble into the trap” — Afrikaans term of contempt for an English person or an English-speaking South African. Literally: red neck.
RADIUM AGE SCIENCE FICTION: “Radium Age” is HILOBROW’s name for the 1904–33 era, which saw the discovery of radioactivity, the revelation that matter itself is constantly in movement — a fitting metaphor for the first decades of the 20th century, during which old scientific, religious, political, and social certainties were shattered. This era also saw the publication of genre-shattering writing by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Sax Rohmer, E.E. “Doc” Smith, Jack London, Arthur Conan Doyle, Aldous Huxley, Olaf Stapledon, Karel Čapek, H.P. Lovecraft, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Yevgeny Zamyatin, Philip Gordon Wylie, and other pioneers of post-Verne/Wells, pre-Golden Age “science fiction.” More info here.
READ GORGEOUS PAPERBACKS: HiLoBooks has reissued the following 10 obscure but amazing Radium Age science fiction novels in beautiful print editions: Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague, Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail (and “As Easy as A.B.C.”), Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Poison Belt, H. Rider Haggard’s When the World Shook, Edward Shanks’ The People of the Ruins, William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land, J.D. Beresford’s Goslings, E.V. Odle’s The Clockwork Man, Cicely Hamilton’s Theodore Savage, and Muriel Jaeger’s The Man with Six Senses. For more information, visit the HiLoBooks homepage.
SERIALIZED BY HILOBOOKS: Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague | Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail (and “As Easy as A.B.C.”) | Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Poison Belt | H. Rider Haggard’s When the World Shook | Edward Shanks’ The People of the Ruins | William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land | J.D. Beresford’s Goslings | E.V. Odle’s The Clockwork Man | Cicely Hamilton’s Theodore Savage | Muriel Jaeger’s The Man With Six Senses | Jack London’s “The Red One” | Philip Francis Nowlan’s Armageddon 2419 A.D. | Homer Eon Flint’s The Devolutionist | W.E.B. DuBois’s “The Comet” | Edgar Rice Burroughs’s The Moon Men | Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland | Sax Rohmer’s “The Zayat Kiss” | Eimar O’Duffy’s King Goshawk and the Birds | Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Lost Prince | Morley Roberts’s The Fugitives | Helen MacInnes’s The Unconquerable |
Geoffrey Household’s Watcher in the Shadows | William Haggard’s The High Wire | Hammond Innes’s Air Bridge | James Branch Cabell’s Jurgen | John Buchan’s “No Man’s Land” | John Russell’s “The Fourth Man” | E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops” | John Buchan’s Huntingtower | Arthur Conan Doyle’s When the World Screamed | Victor Bridges’ A Rogue By Compulsion | Jack London’s The Iron Heel | H. De Vere Stacpoole’s The Man Who Lost Himself | P.G. Wodehouse’s Leave It to Psmith | Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” | Houdini and Lovecraft’s “Imprisoned with the Pharaohs” | Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Sussex Vampire.”
ORIGINAL FICTION: HILOBROW has serialized three novels: James Parker’s The Ballad of Cocky The Fox (“a proof-of-concept that serialization can work on the Internet” — The Atlantic); Karinne Keithley Syers’s Linda Linda Linda (which includes original music); and Robert Waldron’s roman à clef The School on the Fens. We also publish original stories and comics. These include: Matthew Battles’s stories “Gita Nova“, “Makes the Man,” “Imago,” “Camera Lucida,” “A Simple Message”, “Children of the Volcano”, “The Gnomon”, “Billable Memories”, “For Provisional Description of Superficial Features”, “The Dogs in the Trees”, “The Sovereignties of Invention”, and “Survivor: The Island of Dr. Moreau”; several of these later appeared in the collection The Sovereignties of Invention | Peggy Nelson’s “Mood Indigo“, “Top Kill Fail“, and “Mercerism” | Annalee Newitz’s “The Great Oxygen Race” | Flourish Klink’s Star Trek fanfic “Conference Comms” | Charlie Mitchell’s “A Fantasy Land” | Charlie Mitchell’s “Sentinels” | Joshua Glenn’s “The Lawless One”, and the mashup story “Zarathustra vs. Swamp Thing” | Adam McGovern and Paolo Leandri’s Idoru Jones comics | John Holbo’s “Sugarplum Squeampunk” | “Another Corporate Death” (1) and “Another Corporate Death” (2) by Mike Fleisch | Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer and Frank Fiorentino’s graphic novel “The Song of Otto” (excerpt) | John Holbo’s graphic novel On Beyond Zarathustra (excerpt) | “Manoj” and “Josh” by Vijay Balakrishnan | “Verge” by Chris Rossi, and his audio novel Low Priority Hero | EPIC WINS: THE ILIAD (1.408-415) by Flourish Klink | EPIC WINS: THE KALEVALA (3.1-278) by James Parker | EPIC WINS: THE ARGONAUTICA (2.815-834) by Joshua Glenn | EPIC WINS: THE MYTH OF THE ELK by Matthew Battles | TROUBLED SUPERHUMAN CONTEST: Charles Pappas, “The Law” | CATASTROPHE CONTEST: Timothy Raymond, “Hem and the Flood” | TELEPATHY CONTEST: Rachel Ellis Adams, “Fatima, Can You Hear Me?” | OIL SPILL CONTEST: A.E. Smith, “Sound Thinking | LITTLE NEMO CAPTION CONTEST: Joe Lyons, “Necronomicon” | SPOOKY-KOOKY CONTEST: Tucker Cummings, “Well Marbled” | INVENT-A-HERO CONTEST: TG Gibbon, “The Firefly” | FANFICTION CONTEST: Lyette Mercier’s “Sex and the Single Superhero”